The last chance saloon? The Independent Labour Party and miners' militancy in the Second World War revisited

McIlroy, John and Campbell, Alan (2011) The last chance saloon? The Independent Labour Party and miners' militancy in the Second World War revisited. Journal of Contemporary History, 46 (4) . pp. 871-896. ISSN 0022-0094 [Article] (doi:10.1177/0022009411413404)


The second world war witnessed widespread conflict in British industry, notably in mining. We review the role of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), a small revolutionary socialist organization, focusing on its work in the trade unions. Its development is discussed in the light of recent claims that, with the Communist Party (CP) pledged to national unity after Hitler’s invasion of Russia, the ILP generated and harnessed militancy in the mines around demands for their immediate nationalization under workers’ control. We discuss the organization, policy and personnel of the party at the outbreak of war. Its approach to agitation in the unions is analysed and compared with that of the Communists and Trotskyists. Its activity in the coalfields throughout the war is assessed. We conclude that strikes in coal and other industries were motivated by workplace problems, not aspirations for workers’ control. Disputes reflected conventional discontents exacerbated by wartime conditions rather than opposition to the war or demands for ‘a socialist Britain now’. The ILP was ill-equipped to mobilize grievance and its role in its articulation was marginal. By 1945 its efforts in industry had failed to arrest its decline – the CP again provides instructive comparison – or improve its electoral prospects.

Item Type: Article
Keywords (uncontrolled): Communist Party; Independent Labour Party; miners’ militancy; nationalization and workers’ control; second world war; strikes; Trotskyists
Research Areas: A. > Business School
Item ID: 11010
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Depositing User: Teddy ~
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2013 15:25
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:27

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